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In re Tchakarova

Court of Appeals of Michigan

May 14, 2019

SVETLANA TCHAKAROVA, also known as LANA CHUCK, Respondent-Appellant. MEGHAN INGHAM, Petitioner-Appellee,

          Washtenaw Circuit Court LC No. 18-000658-MI

          Before: Swartzle, P.J., and M. J. Kelly and Tukel, JJ.

          M. J. KELLY, J.

         Respondent, Svetlana Tchakarova, appeals by right the probate court order granting the petition for involuntary mental-health treatment and ordering respondent to undergo mental-health treatment for up to 90 days, with up to 60 days of hospitalization. For the reasons stated in this opinion, we affirm.

         I. BASIC FACTS

         On September 6, 2018, petitioner filed a petition for mental-health treatment. The petition alleged that, as a result of mental illness, (1) respondent "can be reasonably expected within the near future to intentionally or unintentionally seriously physically injure [herself] or others, and has engaged in an act or made significant threats that are substantially supportive of this expectation," (2) respondent "is unable to attend to those basic physical needs that must be attended to in order to avoid serious harm in the near future, and has demonstrated that inability by failing to attend to those basic physical needs," and (3) respondent's "judgment is so impaired by that mental illness that [she] is unable to understand [her] need for treatment, and whose impaired judgment, on the basis of competent clinical opinion, presents a substantial risk of significant physical or mental harm to [herself] or presents a substantial risk of physical harm to others in the near future." In support of the allegations, petitioner attached clinical certificates from a physician and a psychiatrist who observed respondent at the hospital. Both doctors diagnosed respondent with bipolar disorder, determined that she displayed a likelihood of injuring herself and that she did not understand the need for treatment, and recommended a course of treatment that consisted of 60 days of hospitalization and 90 days of outpatient care with permission to use injectable medication and communicate with respondent's family and other treatment providers.

         The probate court ordered Washtenaw County Community Mental Health (CMH) to assess alternatives to hospitalization. Following its evaluation, CMH recommended respondent be hospitalized for up to 60 days, followed by "alternative treatment."

         A hearing on the petition was held on September 12, 2018. Dr. Scott Mariouw, a psychiatrist, testified that he and a psychiatric resident met with respondent on September 6, 2018, the day after she was admitted to the hospital. Dr. Mariouw met with her every day since then for follow-up. Dr. Mariouw diagnosed respondent with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, which was a disorder of both thought and mood. He explained that respondent exhibited disorganized thoughts, behaviors, and delusions that impaired her ability to function in society. Respondent's husband had provided Dr. Mariouw with documentation of respondent's original diagnosis of bipolar disorder in 1991 and photographs of numerous car crashes respondent was involved in because of her illness. Respondent had suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a car accident in 1993, and the TBI likely made respondent's prior symptoms worse and more difficult to treat.

         Dr. Mariouw noted that respondent had been ticketed for reckless driving and speeding on September 1, 2018, and arrested on September 4, 2018, for trespassing as a result of her delusions related to stalking professors on college campuses, which showed impairment of judgment. Dr. Mariouw believed that respondent could intentionally or unintentionally seriously injure herself or someone else in the near future because the reckless driving and the stalking showed that she provoked someone else or could hurt someone else. Dr. Mariouw opined that respondent's judgment was so impaired that she did not understand that she needed treatment because she did not believe she had a mental illness. He also stated that respondent has left the county or the country in the past to avoid court-ordered treatment. Dr. Mariouw did not believe that respondent had made progress since she was hospitalized on September 5, 2018. And he confirmed that respondent was not taking medication at the time of the hearing.

         Respondent also testified, stating that she had a mental illness "[a]s much as somebody can prove it." She did not believe she needed to be in the hospital, explaining that "for twenty-eight years, I have been detailed [sic] in mental hospital." She elaborated that the doctors rob her husband, "don't give my injection," and allowed her husband to "pay my expenses to escape the country." Respondent explained that "[d]octors prove doctors wrong and judges wrong and don't give me a shot and allow me to escape the country." She suggested that "[t]he system is not so good," and the doctors were obligated by the system to "claim [she was] insane." Then, as her lawyer was summarizing his closing argument, respondent added that her medications do not stop her violence, and she indicated that her medications, in fact, caused her to be violent and want to throw things, and she stated, in vague terms, that she "hit the government official, which is [a] felony," but was excused because of her "mental sickness."

         Following the hearing, the trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that respondent was a "person requiring treatment" under MCL 330.1401(1)(a) and (c).

         II. MOOTNESS


         Petitioner argues that, if this appeal is not decided on or before February 12, 2019, respondent's appeal of the September 12, 2018 involuntary commitment order would be moot and the case should be dismissed without reaching its merits. Whether an issue is moot is a question of law that this Court reviews ...

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